Lakeville North girls playing for spot in state tourney

Lakeville North’s Class 3A, Section 1 girls basketball championship game against Rochester Mayo is a rematch of teams that met in a holiday tournament in late December.

The Panthers rolled to a 59-39 victory at the U.S. Bank Rotary Classic, but North coach Shelly Clemons said people shouldn’t read too much into that result when the teams meet again at 8 p.m. Thursday at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

“They were missing their point guard (Liv Korngable) in that game,” Clemons said. “She was out with an ACL injury, and she’s their best player. They’re a different team now.”

It could be argued that the Panthers are, too. They at least appear to be a deeper team after ninth-grade guard Lauren Jensen came off the bench to score 25 points in a 69-49 victory over Farmington in the Section 1 semifinals Saturday. It was the 20th consecutive victory for North, which takes a 26-2 record into the section championship game.

“It’s a bigger court (at Mayo Civic Center), so we’ll have to go at least eight deep,” Clemons said. “I like the versatility we’ve developed. Our starting five can play half-court man-to-man defense and shut other teams down, and we can bring some quickness off the bench if we want to go full-court.”

Jensen averaged 6.8 points during the regular season but has scored 39 in the Panthers’ first two playoff games. The Panthers start three seniors and two juniors, so Jensen has to grab her opportunities whenever they arise.

“Lauren is very talented and probably will be a featured player for us the next three years,” Clemons said.

Junior forward Taylor Brown had 14 points and senior guard Temi Carda 10 in the victory over Farmington.

Molly Mogensen had 14 points and Ellie Clayton 11 for Farmington, which finished 13-15. The Tigers, seeded fifth in the section, topped fourth-seeded Owatonna 54-48 on the road in the quarterfinal round March 1.

Rochester Mayo trailed by as many as nine points in the first half before roaring back to beat Lakeville South 56-32 in the other Section 1 semifinal Saturday. Lakeville South (11-17) defeated third-seeded New Prague 73-60 in the first round as senior guard Katie Guentzel scored 25 points.

If South Suburban Conference champion Lakeville North defeats Rochester Mayo, a top-three seed in the state Class 4A tournament appears likely. Two undefeated teams, Hopkins and Elk River, remain in the playoffs, but they’re the only teams in the enrollment class with fewer losses than North. The Class 4A quarterfinals will be Tuesday, March 14, at Target Center.